The lightening rod that is Rep. Paul Ryan's budget Roadmap has attracted a fresh summer storm over the last few days, with Paul Krugman, Nate Silver and our own Megan McArdle in a war over whether Ryan is, or is not, a flimmy-flammy fraud. My politics are closer to Krugman, but here I side with my editor, and not solely for reasons of employment.
Much of the tactical debate here is about how Ryan got his plan "scored," or evaluated, by the Congressional Budget Office. I find the inter-agency politics of Congress, the CBO, and JCT fascinating, but I have a sense that this is one of those things, like my deep affection for plain rice, or my belief that Coldplay is a band with great artistic merit, where I'm basically alone. So if you want that story, click over to Megan.
Now about the plan, itself. Ryan would freeze tax revenues just above their historical average, at 19 percent of GDP. But little about our tax system would be frozen solid. We'd add a consumption tax, and lose the corporate income tax. The top 0.1 percentile would get a two-million-dollar tax break. Tax deductions -- for health care, mortgage interest, charitable donations -- would disappear. This change would be transformative, but one number would matter more than all other numbers: 19 percent of GDP. When Ryan responds to criticism of his plan raising less money than promised, he says he'd be willing to tinker with rates to achieve that figure.